The guest suite at the Pinnacle of Celestial Supremacy was actually very nice; practically everything but the walls was ambrosial, there was a nice view of the reclaimed territory from the window, and there was plenty of room – unlike the rather crowded Jorgensen nursery complex’s common room.
No food though! Fortunately, he had peanut butter!
He was halfway though his first sandwich when someone came knocking at the door,
(Charles) “Er… Hello?”
(Celestina) “Charles, are you up? Someone wants to speak with you before you and Harold head off to school.”
(Charles) “Uhm… OK!”
Celestina waited for him to open the door; the boy generally didn’t act like it, but he was – at least amongst the Bronze Faction – considered a powerful being… She escorted him downstairs, into a highly-warded chamber (mostly concentrated on privacy, non-detection, and anti-teleportation) while he offered her some peanut butter toast… The Breakfast of Guardians and Primordials!
Well, probably not really.
(Celestina) “Thank you dear. It’s okay if I call you that, isn’t it?”
(Charles) “It’s OK!”
(Celestina) “Coffee? Everyone around here drinks it.”
She had produced a cup from nowhere. It DID smell good – not quite Celestial coffee, but definitely ambrosial – but Charles had experienced the treachery of coffee before! It NEVER tasted the way it smelled!
(Charles) “I like Cocoa better!”
(Celestina) “Cocoa is it then!”
The liquid in the cup promptly changed to cocoa; it seemed to be… one of the Manse’s minor Magical Conveniences. That was handy!
About then, they crossed over the actual wards…
(Celestina) “Okay, Charles, I didn’t want to say it outside the wards, but Lady Rosa Cress from the Opalescent Gardens is here to see you. When I sent the message out last night, she was the first to respond. I have no idea what any of this is about, but it’s important to Father, and I don’t want to keep you or her waiting. Thanks for helping us out.”
(Charles) “You’re welcome! And Hello Mrs Cress!”
He hadn’t seen her for a bit!
She was preparing something on one of this room’s twelve blue jade screens, but gracefully turned towards him – although she was still looking far too tired.
(Rosa) “Ah, Charles! I didn’t hear you and Celestina come in. She must have left to prepare the other children for school.” (She motioned toward the long tablem where there were two seats). “Please, sit down. Before we started, the High Lord wanted to apologize for not being able to make it. There was a major fate breach several hundred light years from Earth, and he got tapped to lead the investigation.” (She frowned slightly as she said that.)
(Charles) “Well I hope it won’t be too much trouble!”
(Rosa) “Normally we’re not supposed to discuss these things, but he wanted me to let you know it was something he couldn’t turn down… and this is a well warded chamber.”
(Charles) “So what do you need?”
(Rosa) “Charles, what do you think about the state of the Celestial City? (Hurriedly) Other than that it needs to be fixed?”
(Charles, finding his usual answer pre-empted…) “It’s a bit of a mess!”
(Rosa) “To say the least… and what about the deiphage issue?”
(Charles) “That also needs fixing! It’s going to be awkward to satisfy everyone, but I think that I can find a way to manage!”
Rosa looked contemplative for a moment, then spoke again – looking a bit worried.
(Rosa) “It does need fixing, but we all know that… and hopefully we can do it before it reaches a certain percentage. Have you checked into the Celestial Bureaucracy’s evacuation plans in case the worst happens?”
(Charles) “I only found out that they had plans for that the other day!”
(Rosa) “Ah, I see. They’re… actually not that bad. They’re a joint effort of the Division of Endings and the Bureau of Heaven. In the event that the abandoned regions spread to more than eighty percent of the city – which would mean that they would be aboveground in the Central Metropolitan Zone – the Celestial Bureaucracy would be able to evacuate those gods willing to leave in a “mere” twenty years. They’re already setting aside aerial rickshaws and armed dhows for the process, and readying the former Blessed Isle gates.”
(Charles) “Hmm… twenty years is quite awhile, they’d be under siege most of that time, it would mean abandoning the Loom and a lot of other stuff… and there’s a substantial chance of geomantic collapse across the entire central region of imposed geomancy there!”
(Rosa) “Indeed. And that’s not even factoring in gods not wanting to leave, other gods deciding to turn deiphage… it would be a mess.”
Charles considered that. From the last readings he’d gotten, it was currently at 71%, and soon would be increasing more rapidly.
(Charles) “Maybe I should hurry up a bit!”
(Rosa) “Good, I’m glad to hear that. That enthusiasm – and your sympathy toward us – is why the High Lord wanted you to help us. And most of us think you deserve to know what we’re planning.”
(Charles) “What’s that?”
Rosa turned on the screen, displaying the progress of the abandonment in Yu-Shan. The worst increase seemed to be in the Lunargent Ecological Protectorate – about where Charles had expected it to be.
(Rosa) “Contrary to rumors you may have heard, we DON’T intend to flee Yu-Shan… at least not permanently. But what we have planned would cause the Bureaucracy to audit us. All of us.”
(Charles) “That would be a terrible pain!”
(Rosa smiled) “All worth it, though… if we can manage the operations required, we and our families won’t have to be in Yu-Shan while the process occurs. If, that is, we can find enough supplies for the inevitable exile.”
(Charles, with some surprise) “But supplies are easy!”
(Rosa) “Yes they are! We’ve had enough food for centuries, and we just need a few more void suits and parts for the space journey. Thanks to that prototype gate you told Valkith (the alien Chosen of Journeys) about, we might even be able to make it out in time. There’s just one problem, though. We… don’t have enough ships large enough to hold all our relatives.”
(Charles) “Oh! Well, there’s lots of space… Or do you just need some more ships?”
(Rosa) “Charles, I know it’s a major favor to ask, but could you build us a couple of large spaceships? I don’t want to leave anyone behind to face reprisals.”
(Charles) “How big do they need to be?”
(Rosa) “Well… one to hold Valkith’s family; his freighter won’t be big enough to hold them all for the long-term, no matter now nicely he sets things up. And one large enough to hold the entire population of the Occluded Observatory. Gustav said Astrid was very insistent on not leaving any of them behind… I can’t blame her . . . she has invested a lot in that place.”
(Charles) “Oh… That’s only about 250 I think!”
(Rosa) “Three hundred, actually – he still hasn’t signed the official residency papers for some of the families. But I suspect that won’t make much of a difference for your skills.”
(Charles) “Hm… Well, first up, just in case…
He made about five hundred Wyld Hart Stones (in necklace-settings) first…
Wyld Hart Stones (Artifacts **) are dangling orbs of opalescent jade that shine with an ever-shifting inner radiance when they’re attuned – a process which requires the expenditure (not the commitment) of three motes or one point of temporary will and touching the stone with a drop of the user’s blood – after which the pulsing of it’s radiance will keep time with the user’s heartbeat.
As long as the user carries the activated stone, it provides him or her with the equivalent of rating-1 graces – allowing the bearer sufficient shaping abilities to remain quite comfortable in the Bordermarches or Middlemarches without risk of wyld mutation. Unfortunately, they do not suffice for deeper areas, although they do reduce the effects of such wyld exposure by two levels.
(Charles) “There! One of THOSE for everybody… And then a few small Chancels! I might have trouble getting ships to people, but Chancels are very easily portable!”
(Rosa) “Thank you, Charles. We’ve already prepared anti-Wyld and detection wards for the ships we have, but if worse comes to worse, that should keep us protected and well-hidden.”
(Charles) “Oh well! This way… if you need to evacuate before you have enough ships, everyone can just take an amulet and duck into the Chancels – and the Chancels can be carried in a pocket after that! Or mounted in an existing ship to expand the cargo capacity to tens of thousands!”
(Rosa smiled) “I would almost say you’ve considered the possibility of fleeing yourself. I’ll ensure these are distributed throughout all the reclaimed territories.”
(Charles) “Well… I’ve got lots of refugees NOW, but they’re mostly from wars on Earth.”
(Rosa) “While we did consider the possibility of asking for asylum in your world body, the High Lord wanted to remain in actual space. No offense, dear?”
(Charles) “Why would I be offended? Not everybody wants to be a guest!”
(Rosa) “Of course not, dear.”
(Charles) “I’ll have to think about ships for a little bit… they’re complicated… but is there anything else you need in the meantime?
(Rosa) “Well… we could use a few more worksuits. While the void suits are nice, they’re made more for Essence channelers’ needs.”
Charles made a few batches of those too – and Mrs. Cress started looking a bit brighter. While she wasn’t unattractive, she generally looked pretty tired (it was HARD being the only Bronze Chosen of Serenity AND their best audit defender).
It was nice to see her perking up a bit!
(Rosa) “You’re too generous, dear. Anyhow… we were planning to initiate the process when the abandoned regions’ geomancy spread THIS far.”
She did some time-lapse projecting on the map – which now showed about 75%. Charles made a note to see that overseer and discourage him/her SOON!)
(Rosa) “We… had to ask you because you were the only friendly person we knew who might build a ship that fast. If this succeeds, we might be able to stop the spread… and over a century or two, remove it.”
(Charles) “Well, I’ll see what I can do!”
(Rosa) “Thank you! Do let us know if you have any additional questions!”
Charles was obviously too busy thinking about ships to have any immediate questions, so Rosa offered him a banana.
(Rosa) “It would go well with your sandwich, I think.”
(Charles, absently) “Thank you!”
And the servants took Charles and Harold to school as Charles drank his cocoa…
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